Three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations of buoyant bubbles in galaxy clusters

S. M. O'Neill, D. S. De Young, T. W. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


We report results of three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations of the dynamics of buoyant bubbles in magnetized galaxy cluster media. The simulations are three-dimensional extensions of two-dimensional calculations reported by Jones and De Young. Initially, spherical bubbles and briefly inflated spherical bubbles all with radii a few times smaller than the intracluster medium (ICM) scale height were followed as they rose through several ICM scale heights. Such bubbles quickly evolve into a toroidal form that, in the absence of magnetic influences, is stable against fragmentation in our simulations. This ring formation results from (commonly used) initial conditions that cause ICM material below the bubbles to drive upwards through the bubble, creating a vortex ring; that is, hydrostatic bubbles develop into "smoke rings," if they are initially not very much smaller or very much larger than the ICM scale height. Even modest ICM magnetic fields with β = P gas/P mag ≲ 103 can influence the dynamics of the bubbles, provided the fields are not tangled on scales comparable to or smaller than the size of the bubbles. Quasi-uniform, horizontal fields with initial β ∼ 102 bifurcated our bubbles before they rose more than about a scale height of the ICM, and substantially weaker fields produced clear distortions. These behaviors resulted from stretching and amplification of ICM fields trapped in irregularities along the top surface of the young bubbles. On the other hand, tangled magnetic fields with similar, modest strengths are generally less easily amplified by the bubble motions and are thus less influential in bubble evolution. Inclusion of a comparably strong, tangled magnetic field inside the initial bubbles had little effect on our bubble evolution, since those fields were quickly diminished through expansion of the bubble and reconnection of the initial field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1317-1330
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • MHD


Dive into the research topics of 'Three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations of buoyant bubbles in galaxy clusters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this